Local contractor keeping our area's cedar-hackers
By BILL WHITAKER
Jack Casey says there's always a harder way to do things.
For instance, the 42-year-old Abilene remodeling contractor
remembers the time, not long ago, when a plywood base was about
to be laid down for an oak wood floor as part of an ambitious
home remodeling project. As is routine, thick, black, gooey tar
was applied first.
Everyone in the household had been repeatedly warned to keep
the big, fat, beloved family cat locked up till this phase of
the project was complete - everyone, that is, but the maid.
So naturally she allowed the well-fed cat loose - and onto
the fresh tar.
Result: the cat panicked after walking on the tar, panicked
some more when laborers began yelling at it, then led workers
on a madcap chase through other parts of the house, including
across what had just been newly laid snow-white carpet.
"I just remember they couldn't catch it," Jack told
me, shaking his head at the memory. "I got a call from the
guy in charge of that part and, well, I thought he was Iranian
or something, I couldn't understand him. Problem was, now he was
in a panic."
Lately Jack's been doing things the hard way but for better
Although the longtime contractor is still undertaking remodeling
projects with his two brothers, he's also branched out into the
home-made furniture business.
Catch: He's building most of his tailor-made furniture of cedar
posts, just like those that hold up many a fence throughout West
Texas. He claims to have enough business that he's keeping cedar-hackers
in the Possum Kingdom area busy furnishing more and more cedar.
I'm always happy to hear our area's cedar-hackers are being
"Funny thing is, we treat the wood in such a way people
don't know it's cedar," he said after I stopped to chat with
him during the Bonanza Cutting Horse Classic at the Expo Center.
"A lot of people think it's aspen, but it's the same wood
their granddaddys used for fence posts."
After debarking the cedar posts, each is sanded, then dried
in a wood kiln to get all the moisture out. The results do look
like another sort of wood, but it's definitely cedar. Jack has
been making rockers, tables, bed posts and easy chairs of this
distinctively West Texan and wildly plentiful wood.
So far it's largely a family operation. Jack tells me two of
his three kids - 15-year-old Todd and 12-year-old Peter - help
actually strip bark from the wood. I asked why Jack's 15-year-old
daughter, Melanie, wasn't part of the debarking operation. "The
girl's not a stripper," Jack said straight-faced (and with
a look of some disappointment). "I think you have to have
some meanness to strip cedar, and she's just not mean enough."
I guess the surprising thing is so many of the western-oriented
folks at this week's cutting event have been fooled into thinking
Jack's furniture - on display at the Taylor County Expo Center
through this weekend - is something other than cedar.
Whatever the case, that didn't keep many from sitting down
and trying it out - and a fanny in the saddle all day can be mighty
Although Jack's at the Expo Center this week, he operates out
of a place called The Homestead Collection, 363 ES 11th. The place
has been opened up to other artisans, too, including an Albany
woman who makes rope baskets from used rope.
And two local school teachers make silhouettes from the rusty
iron discs off old field plows.
"If it's been used, all the better," Jack said of
his fellow artisans. "It's just different and touches people
more. It means more if people know the silhouettes made of those
plow discs come from plows that actually turned the earth and
helped cotton grow."
There's a poetry to Jack's words that makes me want to stop
by the newly opened Homestead Collection, open Thursdays, Fridays
and Saturdays except for this week.
I'll bet, too, I don't find any cats loose inside.
Bill Whitaker, who would never, ever purchase snow-white carpet,
can be reached at 670-5293, ext. 325.
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